Nine Times Nine Is Nine
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


I'm so tired. As a result, I hired my trusty editor, the comely Max "Christine" Maki, to write today's second post and do the lyrical analysis (accompanying my musical thoughts) for the first. She is 73 years old and smokes two and a half packs of Camel Lites a day.


The Fembots - "Small Town Murder Scene"

I wrote:

"Small Town Murder Scene," is a faded, flickering black and white saloon rag. Men sit at the bar, dejected, leaning over their beer. An entertainer sits down and bangs away at the piano, belts out one of the thousands of songs he knows. The clientele clues in and on the one-and, and three-and they bang their glasses on the bar. The bartender keeps the beer flowing, pouring it out on two and four. A sing-along ensues. A fiddler joins the party. Hoots and hollers. Castanets and singing saws. Bringing some joy to the Old West is what the Fembots are all about.

Christine wrote:

Or so you may think, not having listened to the content of said hooting and hollering. The town couldn't wait to get rid of old Valentine there, who, as you can probably imagine, was one of these annoying busy-bodies always meddling in others' affairs (or, possibly the aging gold rush harlot, merely misunderstood?). So, the townspeople set out to find the right basement milieu for their grisly solution. And then, to the bar for brief mourning and raucous celebration. Worry about cleaning up later. [Ed. The Fembots bring joy to the Old West not exlusively through song, but also through murder.]



Joni Mitchell - "Edith And The Kingpin"

Joni Mitchell spent her early childhood years in North Battleford and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I have a soft spot for Saskatchewan. Joni's life has been somewhat melodramatic: a survivor of childhood polio (which she contracted just one year before the polio vaccine was invented), she was left (temporarily) unable to walk and with a spine so bent two fists could be inserted under its hump. At the age of twenty-two she gave birth to a secret daughter she later gave up for adoption, and even later (thirty years) found again (as a result of
internet rumours).

Joni Mitchell's eighth album, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, did not at first catch my attention. Too psych rock, too high and low end (not enough middle), too dissonant, too artificial 70's, too moog. Some people love this sound. Not me. I find it cheesy. But having run out of cds to listen to at work one summer, and having replayed this one so many times that I reached a state where I could overcome and accept what I usually see as flaws, I slowly became conscious of its piercing brilliance.

With an almost too-smooth beginning, this jazzy-psych song of decadence and past primes tells the story of the ugly relationship between Edith and her kingpin. The guitars and drums seem too soft, the bass too harsh, the keyboard too shimmery and the flute riff completely unnecessary. But, when Joni adds tumbling jazz melodies in her sharply on-key voice, all these contrasts come together to form an entirely uncheesy whole. This song taught me something: even I can appreciate the heaviness of seventies rock.

Joni moved from Saskatchewan to Toronto, then New York, then L.A. to pursue her musical career. It's hard adjusting to a new place, learning and observing the strange ways of the big city:

"The big man arrives, disco dancers greet him, plain clothes cops greet him, Small town, big man, fresh lipstick glistening."

There are differences between old and new selves, old and new homes that must be reconciled. There are doubts:

"Women he has taken grow old too soon, he tilts their tired faces gently to the spoon."

But Joni knows she too has much to offer, and romantic and snowblind, she falls into desperate love with the man with the diamond ring.

"Edith and the kingpin, each with charm to sway, are staring eye to eye."

At the end, the very best part of the song: "You know they dare not look away."

I won't deny that I haven't secretly hoped for (and elsewhere spread) an internet rumour regarding a second secret daughter (me). Ha ha. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at October 23, 2004 1:19 AM

"too moog" - I am unable to process a sentence that places these two words together, lol..

But yeah, I had a similar experience with Court and Spark.. picked it up in '87 after Prince mentioned "Help Me" on "Ballad of Dorothy Parker," but I couldn't get anything out of it whatsoever at that time.. I had to come back to it about ten years later.

Posted by Jay Smooth at October 23, 2004 5:49 AM

Hey, is it just me, or are both of these songs really really really short? Like under a minute?

Posted by sully at October 23, 2004 11:14 AM

I can't even access the music. It says it couldn't find the homepage I requested.

Posted by Eric Herr at October 23, 2004 5:10 PM

I'm working on it. so sorry.

Posted by Dan! at October 23, 2004 7:05 PM

Such is the power of Jordan (et al)'s writing that, on discovering the links to today's MP3s were inactive, I ran upstairs, rifled through my CD collection, plucked "Hissing" and "Murder Scene" from their respective shelves, and listened to them both.

Thank you again for the wonderful writing!

Posted by Paul at October 23, 2004 8:46 PM

I'm liking what I've heard of the Fembots song so far!

Posted by sherrie at October 24, 2004 2:37 AM

Out of bandwidth maybe? (I can't download them either).

Posted by tuwa at October 25, 2004 1:15 AM

props to give joni exposure on the blog scene
all her albums are classics but this one is a fave. her live version (on shadows and lighs) of edith is even tastier (because of the back up band:pat metheny, jaco pastorius, miks brecker...)peace

Posted by thebeathunters at October 25, 2004 5:22 AM

You should rest!

Posted by Mom at October 25, 2004 12:32 PM

of interest to montreal people: McGill is giving Joni an honorary doctorate during the october convocation. She'll be talking to students/answering questions this thursday (28th). It's at 5:30 in room C-201 of the music building, which is at 555 sherbrooke west.

Posted by Elliot at October 25, 2004 12:56 PM

Hey Elliot,
Thanks for the info. I got an email about this today, apparently it's more of an all-day-Joni affair, with pre-registration and conference fees. Maybe the 5 30 thing is a bit more informal though. Sounds interesting...

Posted by Christine at October 26, 2004 5:06 PM

small town murder scene really is a fantastic album. make sure you check out the videos they have up at their site, the one for broken and blue is like a historica minute.

Posted by circles at October 26, 2004 10:09 PM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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